Archive for the ‘courage’ Category

Activity holiday

Our Easter holiday featured over a dozen activities in four days at the PGL Adventure Holiday site in Shropshire, topped off with my annual birthday walk. What Eliza and Robin approached with relish and gusto, Gabe faced with hesitancy and clearly declared fear.

The most startling of the activities, the Big Swing, took place on day 2. Gabe opted out and was making similar noises about other activities. This was where the young, upbeat instructors stepped in, reassuring, coaxing him to participate. In the case of the wall-climb, they rebuffed his request to come down from half-way up the wall and convinced him, in a way I could not have done, to carry on climbing. He showed his determined side by crouching in the woods trying to light cotton wool with a spark long after anyone else would have conceded. And he managed it.

Eliza thrived – her balance and physical confidence unimpaired by the apparent (though not real) peril of the activities. She went furthest of the whole group in the kayak challenge – moving from sitting, to lying to standing to walking along the kayak.

Robin matched her, when away from the water. The swings, climbs, abseil and zip-wire were devoured. Our final challenge, the high ropes, did cause a wobble as he went out on the circuit then returned. But he went back for a second go and managed to complete the course.

Given Robin’s reticence on the high ropes, Gabe’s achievement of finally screwing up his courage and giving it a go, was even more impressive – though he didn’t like the congratulations it earned him. Meanwhile, Eliza swung around high ropes, trusting to her harness and unaffected by the height.


BMX party

One week after his birthday, so commandeering a two week celebration, Robin’s party took place at the National Cycling Centre. Arriving early, we went to view the indoor BMX track. The kids were struck by its size and nerves jangled.

Ten friends, Eliza and friend and Gabe got kitted up with elbow and leg pads, helmet, gloves and bike. They began with a short practice on the flat before being led onto the track. There were crashes and collisions, sweat and fatigue, but above all, they scared and thrilled themselves.

Foot-long hot-dogs and plate-wide burgers in the centre’s cafe completed a very satisfying party. Robin’s cake, made by L while suffering a migraine, was a football pitch, with rather wobbly touchline and off-centre goals.

Test match


Gabe’s interest in cricket has grown this year: playing for club and school; going to the nets with friends; an obsession with kit; learning to score (and being paid to do so for the senior teams); helping me with some statistics; and now he’s been to his first match.

We saw the fourth day of the third test at Old Trafford. He was very nervous about getting there. He changed seats a couple of times to get a clear view. He made a few enquiries about what I might buy for him, but otherwise was content to watch and exchange comments on the game. The Barmy Army set about their chanting in the afternoon, which bothered us both. But once that died down, other him having a nagging concern about getting on the tram home, we both could have sat there until the evening. The weather closed in, though, and we left in the rain shortly after tea. Gabe put down a marker, he would like to go back and go to Lord’s.

Eliza and Robin

L took Eliza and Robin to the Manchester Climbing Centre, which is sited in an old church. Both scaled 20m high walls, before pushing off and floating back to the ground.

At home, Eliza scripted a play based around a female Harry Potter type character – Harriet. Robin played Dudley, with a football up his shirt and a midget Hagrid. When I saw the performance, Robin carried his script with him, Eliza memorised her words, directed the show and was chief stagehand.

Alone at home


If L has a late meeting at work, Eliza and Robin go to after-school club. There’s no straightforward option for Gabe. There could be – he could wait at home, alone. He had a front door key, although that is now lost. But Gabe has a fear of being alone at home. In the past, he’s preferred to wait on the drive, in the dark and rain. He doesn’t wait patiently, but texts and calls L to find out where she is. She is where she told him she would be. Last week, he did let himself in, but took fright and ran outside again. L and I wait for something to click but, until it does, working late for L creates angst for mother and son.


Eliza was the co-accused in a case of cyber-bullying. Closer inspection of the evidence showed an innocuous email, misconstrued by a headstrong schoolmate who had been ‘being mean’ to Eliza and her closest friend. Apologies have been said and we’ve had our first brush with the difficulties of children and digital communication.


A long run of football birthday parties was broken by a climbing wall party. Robin revisited his heroics of many years ago and was one of only two of the boys at the party to climb to the top of the wall.



A notable hat-trick for Gabe in and around cricket practice:
1. Talking to Robin about why he hadn’t wanted to go to practice the previous week, understanding the reasons and helping find solutions.
2. Coming to the first half of the session and helping out with the younger kids’ practice.
3. Netting with a group including boys two years older and much bigger than he. He batted bravely against the fastest bowling he’s faced and bowled a 14 year old.


Eliza with a book is peaceful, contained and at ease. She surprised me today, showing me how she read a book upside down. Why? Because it’s fun, not that reading isn’t fun anyway, she was quick to reassure me.


At tea time, Robin said, “I don’t know what my life would be like without C.” C is Robin’s closest friend. At school, football club and whenever they can persuade parents to organise a visit to each other’s home.



A few weeks into his secondary school career, Gabe brought home a letter stating he had been selected for a special class to help pupils develop resilience. It rang true as a need and L & I said we’d contact the teacher to find out more. We forgot. The night before the first class, Gabe’s behaviour – great upset and agonizing – reinforced why he may have been chosen. He went along to the class, which he pronounced rubbish.

Talking to him about why he was selected, gave the stage to another side of his character. It was because of a questionnaire he’d completed (verified as true), in which he’d been too modest: saying he was bad at things he knows he’s good at (unverified, but possibly true, too).

L struck a deal that Gabe should go to three classes before deciding whether to continue. Those classes have now been and gone. It’s still rubbish. He gave the example of the class being asked to choose an animal to represent themselves. He chose homo sapiens. His initial torment at being picked for this class has turned to disdain for the childish way he’s treated there.


At the gym club competition, Eliza completed four disciplines. Her floor routine, once she had got underway and stopped looking lost on the large mat, went beautifully. Her vault was over in a flash. On the uneven bars she performed three fluent practices, but on the effort that was marked she lost her swing on the lower bar and had to restart. The rest was fine, but her face showed she was fighting the disappointment as she went away from the apparatus.

In practice on the beam, she was clearly still affected, but gathered herself in competition, to complete a cartwheel safely, slipping once.

She was being marked in a group of three. For bars, beam and vault she was second or third. ‘You must be jealous,’ the red-haired girl said to her spitefully. But her floor routine won her a medal with a score so far ahead of the other two that she came equal first with her friend for the overall award and six months with the trophy.


Robin is continuing to wake early. On the mornings he doesn’t disturb L or me, he is full of creative energy: writing stories, drawing pictures and designing his own match-attax card.

Outward Bound


Gabe has returned safely and excited from two nights away with school at an outdoor activity centre in Wales. He climbed, crossed obstacle courses, fenced, told ghost stories at night and didn’t wash at all. Stories bubble out of him on his first evening back at home.


On the mornings I take Eliza and Robin to school, we all get distracted and have to leave home in a rush. I try to set a brisk pace to make sure we don’t arrive late. Last week Eliza hobbled with a sore foot from gymnastics and this week she was simply tired. “Daddy, you pull me like a suitcase,” she said, not annoyed, just commenting.


Robin seems to have inherited my ability to fall asleep readily. He usually sleeps within minutes of being bade good night. Sometimes he’ll have his request for L or I to stay in bed with him for a little while acceded to. Tonight was typical. He took my hand and within 10 breaths was unconscious.